Text: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Sometimes when I read the Bible, and maybe this is true for you too, but i can tend to glance over a familiar passage. Particularly a passage that is telling a story that we already know and have heard multiple times. It’s like when a child has that favorite bedtime story, by the 100th time they have asked you to read it, you’ve memorized it and as you read you sort of drift away from the story and think about other things. So today, as we read about the Baptism of Jesus it could be easy for us to turn our brains off and rest in its familiarity. THis story is depicted in the synoptic gospels and also mentioned in the gospel of John, as a memory of John the Baptist.
I read a blog a couple months ago about not going on intentionally autopilot when we read familiar passages. So, as I have been studying lately I’ve been trying to take passages such as this one and before I read I ask the God to teach me something new, something beyond the obvious. Sometimes it may take a few days, or a few separate times reading the passage for this to happen, but so far God has been faithful.
To recap, read again to the story of Jesus’ baptism.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
It is beautiful, it really is, but like nativity scenes, and scenes of the empty tomb – we’ve grown so used to them that we sometimes glance over the great complexity and significance these events have and rest in their beauty and familiarity. We forget to notice the power and awesomeness or we fail to see the deeper meaning behind the ordinary.
You’ll soon discover as time goes on that I really enjoy finding parallels and paradoxes and literary tension when I am studying the Bible. I like to examine why things are written the way they are and why passages are put next to each other and how comparing and contrasting them can help me further understand scripture as a whole.
My first class in seminary will be Biblical interpretation, so I do hope you’ll oblige and allow me to share these discoveries with you because I am sure that class is going to inspire me further along this path.
There are two things I want to draw out of this scene.
I’ll start with one, that may be bit more obvious
Depending on when and if you were baptized, you may or may not remember the ceremony that took place. Likely, you have been at a baptism ceremony of another however. If you have not yet been Baptized, you have a great opportunity to go iointo it with the realization that just like at Jesus’ baptism, the trinity is present at yours.
Jesus’ Baptism was the starting gate for his ministry. It was a confirmation and affirmation that he was the chosen messiah. This starting gate depicts the trinity in a beautiful way, Jesus, with the Holy Spirit resting upon him and the Father speaking from Heaven.
I think our baptisms provide for us, the same confirmation, direction and love that we see in today’s Gospel and when its said that, we are Baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit and we are inviting all persons of the trinity to take part.
Jesus came to this earth, was crucified, was buried rose again and is living . When we are baptized we take on those same truths of jesus, we die to our old self and rise up again out of the waters into a new life.
I can only imagine that joy that goes on in heaven when this happens!
Our Heavenly Father is so pleased that an outward expression of faith and repentance is being made and by the Blood of Jesus accepts us as his sons and daughters. He calls us His own and tells us how much we are loved. The Holy Spirit is also there, and just as He was resting upon Jesus’s shoulder He is also resting on our heart and guiding us in our new life.
Second, God shows up in unexpected packages
Remember with me, if you can, the advent season when we were learning about John the Baptist and his ministry. He had been busy preaching repentance and baptizing the jewish people. He continually talked about preparing the way for the Lord. And by that, he meant they needed to prepare their hearts for the coming of the messiah. He challenges them to bear the fruits worthy of repentance. He states that one is coming who will baptize with the Spirit and with fire. John the Baptist is an intense guy! He had a sense of urgency and wanted the people to turn away from their sinful ways and look for the coming Lord.
The gospel tells us that the people “were filled with expectation”. John’s message wasn’t out of the blue, the people were EXPECTING it.
The danger with expectation is that it can lead to excessive anticipation and self created assumptions. We think it should turn out this way. We want someone to act that way. We create a picture in out minds of an outcome we desire, based on what we think is best, and give little or no room for reality.
You see, the people were expecting a bold leader who would help them rise up out of the oppression of the Roman Empire.
In 2 Samuel 7 they were told a eternal kingdom would come from David’s offspring
Genesis 49:10 states that the scepter will not depart from the line of Judah
In Isaiah 61 it is proclaimed that the messiah would set captives free
They took the prophecies about the messiah and morphed them into what they wanted and expected, from an earthly standpoint, a mighty revolutionary king, that would overcome oppression and reign eternal.
But what did they get?
They got a little, delicate baby. An unexpected package
Fast forward about 30 years to Jesus, standing in the Jordan river at his Baptism. You just heard the narrative of these scene a few minutes ago. Jesus is Baptized, He is praying, the skies open – in Mark it actually says the skies are torn apart. A voice comes down from Heaven making a mighty proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and…………………. the Holy Spirit, descends upon Him like a dove. Did you notice, the unexpected package?
In this mighty, awesome, event when the sky is being ripped open and God is speaking….the Holy Spirit, The third person of the trinity, the one who will come and to on the Day of Pentacost as a mighty wind and with fire…..comes peacefully, descending like a little, delicate dove. Unexpected package.
I love this image. A dove is a small, delicate bird and this image is often depicted in jewelry, art, poetry and song and of course stained glass windows.
There is an ancient Jewish writing that refers to the voice of God, like the “cooing of a dove”, which really portrays the gentleness of God.
This tiny bird, to me is a parallel with the tiny baby that Jesus arrived as in Bethlehem. Both, helpless and vulnerable, but both mighty and powerful. Perhaps the use of a dove and the fact that God came as a baby is to make us pay attention. THere’s something God wants us to know about Himself. You see the dove, is also a sacrificial animal and was used in the jewish temple as a peace offering. God is a sacrificial God and he sacrificed himself for his creation.
God’s kingdom was not going to be what the people expected. And Jesus was not the Messiah they had thought he’d be. Or was he…..
Jesus came to earth not to just overthrow the Roman government, but to overthrow evil
He didn’t come to set captives free of an oppressor but to set them free from the oppression of sin.
His eternal kingship, was not meant to be of this word, but be something much greater, something eternal, and that is only possible y the fact the Jesus himself was God, and he humbled himsellf and sacrificed himself for humanity.
God’s kingdom is not meant to be mighty through revolution but revolutionary through mighty love. May we allow the Spirit to gently lead us towards acts of gentleness and peace. And may we think of our baptism, past or future, as a starting gate of our adoption into God’s mighty family and be inspired to do His work here on earth, the work of peace and love.